STEVENS POINT, WAUSAU, Wis (WSAW) -- The transition from high school to college is exciting, but it also starts a tough conversation about if you can afford it.
Currently, the average student loan debt for students graduating from a four-year program is just under $38,000 nationwide. Since 2016, student loan debt has increased two-and-a-half times faster than the rate of inflation. For more information about student loan facts click here.
“Before you take out any student loan debt, you have to think about how you will repay them,” explained Many Slowinski, director of financial aid and scholarships at UW-Stevens Point. “First you should compare the cost of different institutions to determine where you want to go to school. Before taking on the debt, there could be other options.”
Many high school students that took advanced placement courses and received passing grades should be able to transfer the credits earned from those courses to count towards their Associates or Bachelor’s Degree.
“You should always take time to do research,” added Slowinski, “And we are always here to help you understand your financial award packet when you receive it in the mail. Make sure you read everything all the way through first.”
Many websites like GradReady provide a platform for anyone to draft a budget depending on their chosen institution and career field. GradReady estimates your anticipated fees after you graduate and begin work.
Wausau West High School graduate, Kayley McColley is now a sophomore attending Northcentral Technical College. While in high school, she did a dual credit option to earn her Certified Nursing Assistance License for free which saved her nearly $1,000.
“I’m able to work as a CNA to help pay for school. I don’t plan on taking out any student loans, which is a lot different for my brother who is going to UW-Madison for pharmacy,” said McColley. “I also didn’t have to take several electives like English because of my transferred credits which saved me roughly $2,000."
Kayley says sometimes high school seniors may feel pressured to attend big university’s which could cost them more money in the long run; especially if they choose to change their course of study.
Before making your final decision regarding college, make sure you take the time to answer these questions:
1) How much will it cost for me to attend this school for my chosen Associate or Bachelor Degree program? Does that include lodging, meals, books and miscellaneous expenses like Holiday travel?
2) What payment options does my selected school have available?
3) If I must take out student loans, how much will I need to take out to cover my degree and what would be the interest rate?
4) How much money can I expect to make in my chosen career field after graduation? How long would it take me to pay back student loans given I continue in this career field?
5) Am I confident in with my chosen Associate or Bachelor’s Degree program? If not, how much money would it cost me to switch courses and what’s the latest I can make a decision?
6) Have I talked about my plan with a college financial advisor at the school I wish to attend? What are their thoughts?